It is almost a year since the gentlemanly world of cricket was rocked by the news that three of Australia’s biggest stars had been cheating. The sandpaper incident has been discussed to death, but now, with Cameron Bancroft’s suspension coming to an end this month and Steve Smith and David Warner’s bans ending at the end of March, the question is where next for Australia’s former heroes?
Making a new start
Look in any of the sporting papers, and it seems that the answer to that is that they will walk straight back into the national team. Returning after such a public fall from grace brings all sorts of challenges, from reintegration with the team to the inevitable reactions from the fans in the stands.
However, it can be done, as was demonstrated when Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir returned to the national team after a four year ban and a spell in prison. By comparison, Smith and Warner’s misdemeanours are small beer. However, the cauldron into which they will return is a very different matter to that faced by Amir.
He made his comeback in a minor series in New Zealand, and the modest crowds were prepared to give a young kid who had made some bad decisions a second chance. Smith and Warner are senior players, and will be thrust headlong into a world cup on the home turf of their oldest enemies. It is fair to assume that the thousands of English fans filling the stands will not be in such a forgiving frame of mind.
Restoring Australian cricket
The point is, however, that neither Smith nor Warner nor cricket Australia care what the England fans think or what they want to shout from the stands. What matters to them is that for the first time in the 44 year history of the event, there is a cricket world cup on the horizon and the bookmaker sites like Unibet see Australia as one of the outsiders to win it. This is unprecedented. There have been eleven cricket world cups, and Australia has won five of them. In fact, they’ve won all but one since the turn of the millennium.
To Australia’s rabid band of sporting fans, putting that right is what matters above all else, and if Steve Smith and David Warner are the best men for the job, then they will be back in the Australia dressing room in a flash.
Rejoining the team
If they can guide the team back to its rightful place at the top of world cricket, that will be vindication enough among the fans. However, it does not answer the question of just how warmly they will be welcomed back into the Australia dressing room.
This is a question that was put to batsman Aaron Finch, a man who found himself with plenty of responsibility on his shoulders in the absence of Smith and Warner. His response was unequivocal, telling journalists that they will be “welcomed back with open arms” and that “whatever happened happened.”
This promises to be an intriguing World Cup for a whole host of reasons. The drama gets underway on 30 May when Australia take on Afghanistan in Bristol, England.